INSIDE THE ROCKIES

Shuswap country, in the mountain vastness of the Rockies, is a newly accessible paradise for boating, camping and fishing

W. O. MITCHELL March 19 1966

INSIDE THE ROCKIES

Shuswap country, in the mountain vastness of the Rockies, is a newly accessible paradise for boating, camping and fishing

W. O. MITCHELL March 19 1966

INSIDE THE ROCKIES

Shuswap country, in the mountain vastness of the Rockies, is a newly accessible paradise for boating, camping and fishing

W. O. MITCHELL

IT WAS JUST DAYBREAK. We were three men in a boat. Swathed in river mist, we sat and waited in the perfect stillness. We anchored in centre stream and payed out our lines to the pull of swift water.

Then, at the tail of the pool, there exploded a great galumphing splash, the shocking impact of a great and furious body beating against the water surface.

"Judas'." It was the first time Roy had heard spring salmon jump. The first leap seemed to initiate others, and now we saw them, again and again, arcing out ol the water to hang in midair for seconds, sometimes circling frantically nose to tail, with their dorsal fins sticking out of the water.

“Got one!" Alex's rod tip was bowed; his line hummed against the brake of his spinning reel. Surging powerfully, the salmon took oil in a long downstream run. Alex tightened the brake button on his reel. The line snapped.

I said. "Was he big?"

"Like having a stud horse by the tail."

For the next two hours that salmon leaped again and again — high out of the water, with an angry jangling from the big brass spoon still caught in his jaw. We estimated him at possibly thirty pounds. Finally he soared from the water and sailed literally over the bow of the skiff, feet from my face. 1 saw Roy’s shock, then he began to reel in.

"You think I’m giving fish the size of that brute a chance at this light trout outfit, you're crazy." he said. "That's the biggest fish I've ever seen — to fish for! What the heck would I do if 1 got one on!"

His outfit was the one he had used on rainbow and cutthroat for years in the foothills streams of Alberta. But this river was the Shuswap. which flows out of Sugar Lake and into the south end of Mabel Lake, from there westward and into Mara Lake, which is actually an arm of the Shuswap Lake. This sprawling H-shaped lake with nine hundred miles of shoreline lies in the heart of the Shuswap country. Long popular as a resort area for fishermen, campers, boat enthusiasts from the Pacific coast, it has actually come into its own in the past four years since the completion of the Rogers Pass section of the Trans-Canada Highway has made it more accessible to the east.

It is difficult to define the Shuswap's charm, for it succeeds in being all things to all people. Ask for park wilderness, and it otters the forest coniferous and primeval with the high sigh of warm wind through magnificent cedar and fir. virgin growth almost jungle-lush, high alpine meadows covered with wild flowers, and holding stubborn snow banks in August. Olten its beauty resembles that of the Norwegian fjords. Sheer rock cliffs plunge into water of incredible clarity, shoreline unchanged since only the Shuswap Indians knew it.

Yet this is highly developed resort country

as well, with motels and marinas, camp grounds, golf courses, cities, dairy, fruit, cattle and lumbering industries. It is a boaters’ paradise, with docking space, fueling facilities and public slips. Summers are brilliant with sunshine, for the Shuswap has an average rainfall of twenty inches, and the summer temperatures range in the nineties. The nights are always pleasantly cool.

The summer traveler with trailer or tent or boat takes a long descent out of Revelstoke. leaving the Monashee range and the breathless mountain beauty of the Rogers Pass, follows the curving valley of the Eagle River to Sicamous. the eastern gateway to the Shuswap country. Here the possibilities for summer recreation and holiday confuse with their liberality. There are swimming beaches with white sand as finely grained as sugar all along the southern edge of the Shuswap lake to its western limit at Chase. There are camp grounds and motels, family summer cottages, thirty fishing resorts on Shuswap and Mara Lakes.

Until 1885 and the advent of the CPR, the Shuswap w'as the water highway of the country and stern wheelers plied its waterways. In a sense it is possible to relive riverboat history now. for at Sicamous you may take the barge ferry leaving Tuesday mornings to go north up the long Seymour Arm. Thursdays for Salmon Arm, Fridays for Ansley Arms; it returns from each the same day. You may wish to take with you your own boat or camping equipment and leave the ferry at the Cinncousin Narrows park camp grounds. At Enderby. at Salmon Arm. at Blind Bay there are I Lilly equipped houseboats for rent. Red-striped or blue or white sails heel on Blind Bay and sailing races are run almost every Sunday by the Blinil Bay Yacht Club.

When a projected canal is dug between the Shuswap River at Enderby and the north end of the Okanagan at Vernon, it will be possible to cruise all the way from Kamloops through the Okanagan to the U.S. border.

Woods, Pillar. Hidden, are a few of the fly fisherman's favorite lakes. Lake or grey trout are found mostly in the larger lakes, deepswimming fish taken only on the troll. They have reached sixty pounds, but range generally from five to twenty-five pounds. The Dolly Varden trout has gone as high as twenty-two pounds, but its more usual size is three to four pounds. Shuswap trout have a red flesh, w'hich may be because they feed on fresh-water shrimp, but is more likely because they eat salmon: the Kokanee.

These are pigmy Socke yes that have never been to sea; they run about a half a pcnind to a pound, are seldom longer than twelve inches — though a nine-pounder was caught at Echo Lake in the Okanagan district. Nothing tastes better than the Kokanee: red flaking flesh, unmistakably salmon. For fishing, whether it be fly or trolling, the i

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INSIDE THE ROCKIES

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Hanker for a rainbow trout? Try here

Shuswap lakes and the mountain lakes are at their best in May and June, and again in September and October.

Many consider the Kamloops trout the most important sport fish in the Shuswap; they are the native rainbow of British Columbia (the biggest known: fifty-six pounds). In the larger lakes they go up to twenty-five pounds. In spring and fall they are taken near the surface, go deep to five-hundredfoot depths in the hot weather. This is the time to hit the high mountain lakes with a fly outfit. In early April 1964 a Calgarian, Wendell Laycraft, won the Field and Stream magazine award for the largest rainbow caught on a fly; it came from Stump Lake, weighed thirteen pounds. Within fifty miles of Kamloops there are three hundred small lakes — seen from the air it looks as though a giant mirror had shattered and the fragments had

landed among the mountain tops: Monte, Bolean, Spa, Arthur, Stump ...

Five years ago I would not have believed there was a country I could love as much as the Alberta Foothills where my home is. Yet four years ago my sons and I built a cottage in the Shuswap area. We open it at Easter, spend July and August there. The rest of the year I thirst for Mabel Lake. In my winter dreams the spring salmon leap the chucks, the osprey wheels, hangs, plunges down to slash the water’s surface. I hear the loon’s hysteria, feel the pull of the main sheet, the inebriation of a planing sailboat hull. I tell my foothills and prairie and eastern friends all about the Shuswap’s charm. They do one of two things: they come here the next summer or they shake their heads and decide that Mitchell is a lot bigger liar than they thought after all. ★